The Superbowl has come and gone and with it another season of football. Aside from the Spring Game in April we are left with NFL mock drafts and our favorite DVR’d games to last us until September. On September 1st, we start the 2018 season down in Orlando against you know who.
The offense will be starting a new QB, and a few other parts. The defense will be breaking in a entire new defense, and not to mention their third defensive coordinator in 2 seasons (unscrews cap on Pepto Bismol bottle and takes massive chug). This team will look completely different next season, that tends to happen when you lose a Heisman winner, an Army swiss knife in Reggie Bonnafon, and 9 starters on defense.
But hey, such is life in college football. Louisville will need to start beating Clemson and Florida State consistently and also continue the upward trend in recruiting to be able to compete in the ACC. Cort Dennison leaving doesn’t help, but Stephen Field, Mike Summers and Kolby Smith have been holding their own for a while so hopefully recruiting does not dip too much. I will admit, I thought having a Heisman trophy in our trophy case would do wonders. Time will tell.
You also have a nice renovation going down on Floyd Street which will benefit the fans and the players. The only thing to do now is just win games.
So now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the schedule, game by game. I will provide my brutally honest, WAAAAAYYYYYY too early predictions for each game. I may do another one in August after camp has opened but this is mainly to feed your football fix and also because I am killing time until my wedding this summer. This is strictly my predictions and does not reflect the thoughts of the Crunch Zone staff. Let’s have some fun.
Sept. 1st – Alabama (Orlando, Florida)
Unless Nick Saban takes a job in the NFL and all the players transfer, or unless the entire Bama roster gets lost on the way to the stadium I don’t see a scenario in which Louisville can win. It would take miracle, prayer, and a ton of luck. Now if last years team was facing Bama then I would be a little more optimistic, we would still lose, but I would have some hope.
Bama struggles with running QB’s and Lamar would have made someone look silly. Jawon “Puma” Pass is the favorite to win the starting job and that Bama defense is nasty. Oh yeah, Saban has NEVER lost an opener at Bama, so there’s that. They don’t just win, they normally win by double digits and in most games it is not close. Florida State, Michigan, USC, it doesn’t matter. A new, young defense facing that Bama offense is not ideal and lets not forget Bama will probably start Tua Tagovailoa who just happened to come in during their second half game against Georgia and lead them to another championship. Cards start the year on a sour note and come back home to open up the newly renovated stadium. I am begging for the Cards to prove me wrong, I would gladly eat crow. Cards lose 49-17
Sept. 8th – Indiana State (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium)
This is one of the games where fans come see the new stadium and stay for the a**-kicking. I fully expect a lot of pregame activities and our permanent AD is in place to cut the ribbon on this thing. This would normally have all the signs of a nooner which would kill the tailgating buzz but I think the football gods smile down on us and make it a 3:30pm kickoff.
Fans will get a heap of Dae Williams and Puma Pass and we will also see Malik Cunningham for the first time. Defense gets confidence building game and Brian VanGorder is able to rotate some new guys in and work with different schemes. Stadium is completely full thanks to new AD Vince Tyra demanding all beers be $1 for first 3 quarters. Fans get hammered, Uber and Lyft stock skyrockets off of one game and we all go home happy after getting blasted the week before. Cards win 63-14
Sept. 15th – Western Kentucky (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium)
WKU is the fun cousin of the state that you like joking around with at all the family reunions. You also root for them when they are playing and they have also had success on the field against that team down the road. BUT, every once in a while, horseplay with them gets out of hand, somebody drops a “yo momma’, then all hell breaks loose.
Louisville and WKU last met in 1998 at PJCS where the Cards won 63-34. I was a senior in high school and things were much simpler then. I just remember Donte’ Pimpleton, a Fern Creek alum, going absolutely ape s*** in a losing effort. There was little…correction… no defense played and PJCS was brand new and all the seat colors matched. 20 years, 2 BCS games, multiple conference championships, and a Heisman trophy winner later we meet again.
I am not going to lie to you, I stopped paying attention to WKU once Jeff Brohm left but Mike Sanford did lead them to another bowl game and a 6-6 regular season finish. If Brohm was still there, I would be terrified but he isn’t and I would like to think we can handle WKU who will be breaking in a new QB and some other parts. WKU makes CardNation nervous for a half but second half the Cards pull away with some nifty TD catches by Dez 6-Patrick. Cards win 42-24
Sept. 22nd – Virginia Cavaliers (Charlottesville, VA)
Ah yes, we have reached the first stop on the douche express!!!! Bronco Mendenhall did great things at BYU and I feel that it is a matter of time before he does it at UVA. It took a last minute TD by Lamar to beat them in 2016 and before last season’s blowout every game with them was a nail biter. Bronco’s team will be healthy and I expect a fight in 2018. This is one of the times that Louisville’s young defense could get exposed, I have an uneasy feeling about this one folks but I am not ready to call it a loss just yet. I say we get a miracle score or defensive stop late to seal it but trust me, it could easily go the other way. Cards win 28-27
Sept. 29th – Florida State Seminoles (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium)
Hmm. This is weird. We have a winning streak against FSU and it still feels strange. FSU is going through some crazy transition. Jimbo Fischer bolted for Texas A&M and some key members on defense declared for the NFL draft. But in steps Willie Taggart and a healthy Deondre Francois. Not to mention James Blackman returns and hopefully he has put on some weight. Taggart has turned around EVERY team that he has coached. WKU, check. South Florida, check. Oregon, check. So he is 3 for 3 and now taking his talents to Tallahassee.
I would be lying if I told you I hoped we had a chance to one day land his services if he was available. I am sure there will be some growing pains for FSU until they get settled with the new staff but by game 5 I think they will be hitting their stride. Oh yeah, FSU still remembers that 63-20 thing that happened the last time they were in Louisville. They also remember that late fumble that cost them the game last year. Our response is a rudely delivered….”Y’all mad”? Cards win 28-21
Oct. 5th – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium)
Friday night in the Oven, also known as “the kids are at a high school game, the wife is at home watching Blacklist, and I have 3 hours to drink with my bros at a football game”. Friday night in PJCS is something fans around the Ville have embraced. There is normally great weather, you don’t have to work the next day, and its an excuse to get hammered and watch football all weekend while you recover.
That being said, the past few Friday night games have been less than stellar for Louisville. We faced Duke in 2016 and it was a snooze-fest, though the Cards eventually won. In steps Georgia Tech and the dreaded triple option offense. Paul Johnson is the master of this offense and if you have a poor run defense may the lord be with you. This is our first meeting with G-Tech on the football field and I am not too familiar with their team aside from dynamic QB Taquon Marshall. Once again, this is one of those games that hinge on how well the defense is playing at this point of the season. G-Tech physically beats you up, a lot of teams struggle with them and also in the following game after playing them. Not feeling too good about this one folks. Cards lose 24-19
Oct. 13th – Boston College Eagles (Boston, MA)
555 total yards. 272 rushing yards. The team that almost got me banned from writing about Louisville football. I have never used that much profanity in a post but after a frustrating, lackluster game in which A.J. Dillon made us his foot stool I felt it was necessary . The game where Simple Pete had to be told to come down on the field to help his defense. The game where we made Boston College look like the Patriots. You tackle you win, you give Lamar the ball earlier you win. I am still pissed and I think Louisville will be too. Cards win 35-14
Oct. 20th – BYE
Louisville pitches a shutout to win 140-0. It is the biggest win ever in program history but the win is vacated by Dr. Greg Postel who was denied entrance in the team locker room after the game.
Oct. 27th – Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium)
625 total yards. 461 passing yards. 4 receiving touchdowns by a freshman. FOUR. The game where we made Greg Dortch look like Randy Moss. We also found out that he played with a season ending injury as well. The game that single handily cost Peter Sirmon respect and his remaining credibility in the long run. Wake can’t score on Atherton high, yet they managed to put up 42 on Louisville last season. And just for good measure Dave Clausen added a “F You” touchdown at the end. John Wolford is gone but Matt Colburn is still there complaining to anyone who will listen about how Louisville screwed him over by asking him to grey-shirt.
Bobby remembers, the Ville remembers, the defense had better remember. I think this gets ugly and Bobby doesn’t call off the dogs until late in the fourth. Cards win 56-10
Nov. 3rd – Clemson Tigers (Clemson, S.C. aka Death Valley)
Ugh…..I am starting to think that Clemson is our Virginia. Aside from last season all games have been close but we cannot close the game out. Clemson’s recruiting is on another level, their defense never rebuilds, just reloads, and they have Kelly Bryant back along with a dynamic running back in C.J. Fuller, Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster. Etienne was 3rd string last year, you remember him because he was the guy who went 81 yards untouched to put the final nail in the Cardinal coffin. Hunter Renfro is back for his 34th year at Clemson as is Tee Higgins. The Clemson defense returns their entire defensive line. Nicknamed the Power Rangers, the group will welcome back Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, and Mr. Butt Stuff himself Christian Wilkins.
Clemson is very hospitable, similar to the way a staff at a prison is to the inmates on death row. I kid, their fans are really nice and Death Valley is really a nice place to watch a game. I plan on going this year to enjoy the atmosphere but the game I don’t see being competitive. Louisville is breaking in a new defense, and Clemson is not the place to do it. Clemson is on another level right now that the Cards hope to one day be. Today is not that day. Cards lose 45-17
Nov. 9th – Syracuse Orangemen (Syracuse, NY)
The Cards second Friday night game. Dino Babers has always been on the cusp of competing. They beat Clemson last year……and then didn’t win a game for the rest of the season. Eric Dungey is back for his 58th season at Syracuse. The fast paced offense returns with him and if the Orange can get their defense together they may be able to make some noise.
I am always a ball of nerves when Louisville has to go up there to play. Lamar got his first Heisman moment there and the Cards have beat the hell out of Syracuse in back to back years. Depending on how well Jawon is playing this could be another shootout. I think in the end, the Cardinal defense gets a big stop and escapes. Cards win 38-31
Nov. 17th – NC. State Wolfpack (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium)
Bradley Chubb is gone, as are some playmakers on offense. Ryan Finley is back for his 98th season at NC State. Last year, although NC State had a great year I still think Louisville had a decent shot to win. Russ Yeast was picked on the entire game and the Cardinal defense was torched for 367 yards through the air. I still tend to think that win was a fluke by NC State and had Simple Pete’s defense been able to get off the field on 3rd down maybe we win. Louisville was also flagged 10 times and the running game was non-existent aside from Lamar doing his thing. This is another game that could go either way but I would like to think the Cards have enough to pull out a slim victory. Cards wins 24-17
Nov. 24th. – That team down the road (Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium)
Senior day on Thanksgiving weekend. A chance for the Cards to take the lead in the overall series after missing out in 2016. Fresh off a 44-17 beatdown on Kroger Field, Jawon takes the next step in being the next great Cardinal QB to be hated in Lexington. You all know the narrative.
“Wait until Redman leaves, wait until Ragone leaves, wait until Lefors leaves, wait until Brohm leaves” Then after a dark period which we will not address “Wait until Teddy leaves, and finally wait until Lamar leaves” .
The Cards have been blessed with great QB’s here and with Jawon Pass, Malik Cunningham, and Jordan Travis lying in wait it doesn’t seem like that trend will end any time soon. That team down the road has Benny Snell who is a absolute beast. I have not seen one team that was able to slow him down. Aside from that they will be breaking in a new QB and their wide receiver group though improved still struggled with drops. Lynn Bowden was the main guy for them but the UK coaching staff was the only ones that didn’t get that memo. The defense was another story. In year five, Mark Stoops’ defense is still making the same mistakes and for him to be a former defensive coordinator it is very puzzling. They return Jordan Jones who is still fighting everyone in sight. Denzil Ware and Mike Edwards also return.
You all know the drill, they will claim to be the CFB champs in June and July. They will claim to win the SEC East in August. They will be humbled by Florida (again). They will lose to a team they have no business losing to. They will get destroyed by a Georgia running back (again) and then they may or may not beat Tennessee who is still a smoldering dumpster fire. Throw in some wins over garbage FCS schools and a win over Vandy and boom, there ya go. I think Bobby 1.0 will be back next season and I think the offense begins to perform as it did back in the early 2000’s. That team throws the L’s down, Cards run the score up. Cards win 49-21
My overall prediction. Cards will finish 9-3 (6-2) and go to another 2nd tier bowl. Of course, I hope I am wrong and the Cards finish with only a few losses. The defense is the concern, also replacing Lamar is not going to be easy. I will revisit this in August and we will re-evaluate again.